(Northern Circle Coven #3)
Published by: Lyrical Press
Publication date: July 7th 2020
Genres: Adult, Paranormal
A searing battle of hearts, minds, and magic . . .
The Northern Circle coven’s future is in question once again. But this time, hearts and souls are on the line, making the stakes higher, the magic more crucial, and the battle more fateful than ever before . . .
Pregnant and alone at twenty-one, Chandler Parrish sought refuge within the Northern Circle coven’s secluded complex. Never revealing the identity of her child’s father, Chandler has raised her now eight-year-old son, Peregrine, in peace, and used her talent as an artist and welder to become a renowned metal sculptor. But her world is shaken to the core when Peregrine shows signs of natural faerie sight—a rare and dangerous gift to see through faerie glamour and disguises that could only have come from his father’s genes. Worse yet, the boy has seen a monstrous faerie creature trailing Lionel Parker, a magic-obsessed journalist determined to expose the witching world.
But the very man who threatens the witches’ anonymity may also be key to healing Chandler’s long broken heart. As dangerous desires and shocking secrets entangle, new faerie threats and demonic foes close in on the coven and High Council. Loyalties will be tested. Fierce magics will be called upon. And Chandler will have to face her past to save all she holds dear: her coven, her child—and perhaps even her own soul.
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Burlington’s flying monkeys. The originals were crafted out of steel decades ago.
I created mine out of car parts and garden tools as a gift to my son on his third birthday.
Truly, if I could have made them fly, I would have.
—WPZI interview with artist Chandler Parrish
Chandler set the hand grinder aside and flipped up the visor of her welding helmet. She studied the fist-size heart on the workbench in front of her and smiled, pleased with the results. If she could just find the perfect strands of wire to use for the arteries and veins, the heart would be ready to install.
She glanced across the workshop to where her latest flying monkey sculpture crouched on a rusty oil drum. It was crafted from scrap metal like its predecessors. But this one was going to be an updated model with a trapdoor in its chest and a heart—a cross between the Tin Man and the flying monkeys of Oz fame.
“Mama?” Her son’s voice came from behind her.
“Yeah?” She turned to see what he wanted.
Peregrine stood in the workshop’s open doorway, silhouetted against the autumn-orange leaves of a maple that sheltered the entry. Dirt smeared his jeans. His wild blond hair was tangled. Her chest swelled with joy. If she could ask the Gods and Goddesses for anything, it would be for his life to remain as carefree as that of the eight-year-old he was right now.
“Devlin sent me to get you. Some guy’s waiting in the main house.”
“Who is it?” Chandler asked.
He shrugged. “I don’t know. The guy saw a shapeshifter turn into a loup-garou. Wish I’d seen it.”
Chandler pulled off her welding helmet and thumped it down on the workbench. Damn it. Their mystery visitor had to be the journalist. His spotting a shapeshifter transforming in public—illegally, of course—wasn’t that recent of news, but his dogged interest in the event, and his intrusion into the Northern Circle coven’s ongoing issues in general, was proving to be a major pain. Actually, she was shocked he’d showed up here at the coven’s complex. A couple of days ago, two coven members had paid him a not-so-friendly visit at the fleabag motel where he’d been staying to discover if he truly was a threat to the witching world’s anonymity, or if he’d only come across as crazy to the average person.
“Devlin thinks the guy’s lying,” Peregrine added.
“Even if Devlin did believe him, he couldn’t tell the journalist what he saw was real, right?”
“I don’t think Devlin likes him.”
“That’s because the journalist is a troublemaker.” She walked over to Peregrine and smoothed her hand down his cheek. At twenty-five, Devlin was younger than she by almost four years, but that made him no less wise. He was Ivy League smart, a powerful witch with polished good looks and a kind heart that made him perfect for the Circle’s high priest position. She gentled her voice. “Do you know where Brooklyn is?”
Peregrine nodded. “She and Midas are making dinner.”
“I need you to go help them until the visitor leaves. Okay?”
Peregrine stuck out his bottom lip in a pout. “Can’t I just listen? I wanna hear about the loup-garou. Please?”
“Not this time.” She crouched, looked him in the eyes, and turned on her mama-dragon voice. “You need to stay away from this man. He’s dangerous. Understand?”
“He didn’t look dangerous to me. He just talked kinda funny.”
“No arguing. I want you to hang out with Brooklyn and Midas. I’ll tell you all about it later.”
Peregrine glanced over his shoulder toward the yard, then his gaze whipped back to her. “What do redcaps really look like?”
Chandler shook her head. Peregrine’s ability to shift seamlessly from one topic to another never ceased to amaze her. “Where in the Goddesses’ name did that question come from?”
He tucked his hands into his pockets and shrugged. “Just wonderin’.” He stole another glance behind him. His voice trembled a little. “Do they really dip their hats in blood?”
Chandler straightened to her full height. Hands on her hips, she followed his gaze. There was nothing unfamiliar or strange in their yard or in the parking lot beyond it, except for an old, lime-green Volkswagen Beetle in front of the main house, undoubtedly the journalist’s ride.
A spark of fear flickered to life inside her, a fear she’d prayed she’d never have to face. “Did you see something strange?”
“There was this creepy person-thing next to that guy’s car.”
In two swift motions, she pulled him all the way inside and slammed the door shut. Heat and the thrum of protective magic blazed up the dragon and monkey tattoos on her arms and across her shoulders. She studied the yard again through the door’s window, hoping to spot a fox or a mangy racoon. Something. Anything.
Peregrine wriggled in beside her, his breath fogging the windowpane. “It kinda looked like the drawings of redcaps I’ve seen in books.”
She scrubbed her fingers over the soft bristle of her close-cropped hair. Shit. Shit. Shit. Not this. Anything but this. Peregrine was the age when most witches’ abilities manifested. And—though she rarely thought of him—Peregrine’s biological father possessed the gift of faery sight, an ability to see through the glamour faeries used to make themselves invisible; fae such as redcaps. The gift was rare nowadays because the gene pool of witches with the ability had shrunk to a handful, after eons of them being murdered or blinded by the fae, who preferred to remain concealed. It was an extraordinarily dangerous gift for the few adults who possessed it. But for an eight-year-old boy? For her boy?
She wrapped an arm around Peregrine’s shoulder, snugging him closer. “Are you a hundred percent sure you saw something?”
Maybe? Her tension eased a fraction. In truth, it could have been nothing more than wishful thinking on Peregrine’s part, combined with an imagination as active as hers. Even if he had seen a faery, it could have been a benign and unglamoured one that Brooklyn had invited into the complex to help with her herbs and concoctions.
A movement caught Chandler’s eye. Something coyote-size and hunched low to the ground was creeping out from behind the Volkswagen. It slunk along, dragging something--
Chandler shrieked. A body! A child.
She pushed Peregrine behind her, then eased the door open just far enough to get a better view. She had to have been mistaken. It couldn’t be carrying a child.
The creature swiveled to look at her. It dropped the body. Tufts of straw trailed from where the child was missing an arm.
Chandler let out a relieved breath. She recognized the child and the creature now. “There’s nothing to worry about,” she said. “It’s just Henry with Brooklyn’s scarecrow.” Well, there wasn’t anything to worry about as long as Brooklyn didn’t see Henry, Devlin’s golden retriever, making off with her straw man. If she did, there’d be hell to pay.
Peregrine wiggled past her to look. “I wasn’t afraid of nothin’. And that isn’t what I saw. What I saw was bigger. A lot bigger.” He fanned his arms, indicating something twice as tall and large as the scrap-metal rhinoceros that she’d sold to a client last month, impossibly larger than a redcap.
She gave him a side-eye look. Now he was fibbing, except…
A chill traveled up her arms, prickling against the magic in her tattoos. But what if—other than the size—it wasn’t a fib? What if he did have the sight like his father?
Pat Esden would love to say she spent her childhood in intellectual pursuits. The truth is she was fonder of exploring abandoned houses and old cemeteries. When not out on her own adventures, she can be found in her northern Vermont home writing stories about brave, smart women and the men who capture their hearts.
She is the author of the contemporary fantasy Dark Heart series from Kensington Books, and the Northern Circle Coven series. Her short fiction has appeared in a number of publications, including Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show, the Mythopoeic Society's Mythic Circle, George Scither's Cat Tales Anthology, and the Fragments of Darkness anthology.
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